You don’t need a snowmobile or a four-wheeler to ice fish off the coast of Cleveland.
Unlike the shanties north of Catawba on Lake Erie, with their airboats and charter trips and even a guy selling chili, it’s a low-key affair here. Just guys gathering for a few hours, maybe after work, to jig a line through the ice.
(Jigging, I learned, on a recent Wednesday afternoon, refers to quickly jerking your fishing rod up and down in the water, to make the lure dance and attract fish.)
Anglers appear, tromping carefully down the slope of the Gordon Park boat ramps at East 72nd Street, and onto the ice — 14 inches thick in some spots, more than necessary to support a compact car.
Some guys pull plastic sleds attached to clever tents, which they can enclose over them like a clam. Some guys sit out in the cold, on little camper stools.
But they all greet each other, ask how it’s been, show off what they’ve caught.
“It’s like a friggin’ reunion out here,” said one angler, before clearing a patch of snow for his shanty tent.
Anglers use augers — either manual or electric — to drill holes about 6 inches wide, then scoop out ice chunks with a slotted ladle. On a day this cold, the water in the hole starts to freeze unless you slosh it out every so often.
They’re fishing for steelhead and perch, mostly. Maybe walleye. A guy last week caught an incredible 42-inch muskie.
And no, they’re not cold, even if their hands are exposed while their bait the hook. They dress for the weather, they say.
The point, really, is to get outside in the winter, to do what you love and marvel at the fact that you’re standing on water.
As for the ice at the moment, experts stress that no ice is safe ice. In his Thursday fishing report, Durkalec said, the “Lake Erie shoreline ice is breaking up although marina and harbor areas are still largely ice covered.”